(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

M. V. Sexton Speaking is the story of Martha Venable Sexton's sixteenth summer, a summer of self-discovery and initiation into the adult world of work, play and complex but rewarding relationships. When Martha's guardian, Great Aunt Gert, insists she find a summer job, Martha is, at first, reluctant: "Worse than anything," she says, "I hated to be pushed. My resistance juices go into action even if it's something I might, left to myself, be naturally inclined to do." By the novel's end, however, Martha is thanking Aunt Gert "for making me go to work." "It has," she claims, "changed my life."

Martha Venable sheds her pre-adolescent identity along with her name when she is nicknamed M. V. by her new employer, Brad, of Bradley's Bakeshop. At the bakery, M. V. meets a cache of characters who enrich her life. She also learns to speak up for herself, to trust her instincts, stand her ground, and—perhaps most importantly—that "friendly people have friends." As M. V.'s summer saga unfolds, she discovers, with us, a great deal previously untold about her past and her parents—both of whom died while mountain climbing when M. V. was six. Moreover, M. V. learns something about "possibility." Initially, she believes "I am like a coloring book person who has been outlined in purple... blending is not possible for me." At last, M. V. comes to believe that blending is not only possible, it is often, also, desirable. The profile she draws of herself nearer...

(The entire section is 423 words.)